Former prospects getting lost in the Fantasy Baseball shuffle is nothing new. If a player comes up to the majors and does not immediately make an impact, he could be relegated to bench duties for the next couple years. Then, said player falls off the radar until they start to earn regular at-bats once again. That also renders him widely ineffective as a Fantasy asset as well. Sometimes, it can be a happy ending and those former prospects develop into contributing major leaguers. In this week’s Five Spot, we take a look at five former top prospects that I would like to see get an increase in playing time and why you should as well.
- Javier Baez (2B/3B, Cubs) – Baez was one of the top prospects in all of baseball a few years ago with a lethal combination of power and speed. He was promoted to the majors as a 21-year-old in 2014 and predictably struggled to make consistent contact. In 213 at-bats, he hit a paltry .169 and struck out more than 44-percent of the time. In obvious need of further development, Baez saw a limited number of at-bats last year and he’s also been a part-time player this year. He has cut his strikeout rate to just 25-percent and raised his average to .272 over that time. He is in the middle of his most productive stretch, with four HRs, 13 RBIs and eight Runs in June. I would expect his average to dip a bit with regular at-bats, but he would be a realistic threat for 10-15 HRs and 5-10 SBs in the second half. The problem is, the Cubs are so stacked that there really is no room for him every single day. It is not for lack of effort, as he has seen time at first, second, short, third and the outfield this season. However, injuries have created a spot for Baez to play regularly now, so we could see him blossom into a Fantasy star during the second half of this season.
- Jurickson Profar (2B, Rangers) – Profar was absolutely scorching during his first couple weeks in the majors since 2013. So much so that the Rangers tried to get him in the lineup as much as possible. Unfortunately, in the past seven games Profar has just two starts and three appearances and that might be a sign of things to come. He needs a trade or injury to ensure regular time, which is a shame. The 23-year-old former top prospect in all of baseball is finally healthy and playing with confidence, but the lineup is crowded. He does not have the same power potential as Baez, but he should help plenty in all of the other categories. If only the Rangers could unload Prince Fielder on another team just to get Profar in the lineup more often. Keep an eye on this situation as the trade deadline approaches and hang tight to him for the time being.
- Erasmo Ramirez (SP/RP, Rays) – Back in 2012, Ramirez debuted and gave the Fantasy world a glimpse of what he was capable of. This is not an elite prospect with a classic power pitcher’s build and overpowering stuff, but he was missing bats and limiting walks. Expectations have remained realistic – he was a potential SP3, not an ace. That type of ascending young player has plenty of value however and made him a popular sleeper for the past few years. In 2015, he got a change of scenery and started 27 games (34 total appearances) for the Rays. From May 14th on, he had 25 starts with a 3.13 ERA, 110 strikeouts in 144 innings and 11 victories. The 26-year-old was thought to be a solid starter this year, but a crowded Rays staff pushed him to the pen. With Alex Cobb due back from Tommy John surgery next month, it is not clear where Ramirez fits in. On the plus side, he has seven Wins and eight Holds, but he has made only one start all year and that was back in April. Unless he is starting, he’s not worthy of a roster spot in all but the deepest of leagues. It would be nice to see what the 26-year-old can do with a full season’s worth of starts.
- Dylan Bundy (RP, Orioles) – They don’t have a saying about never trusting a pitching prospect just because it’s fun to say. Bundy was an instant success in the minors and even made two appearances in the majors as a 19-year-old. Since then, he’s battled injuries and simply has not been the same pitcher. After missing all of 2013 following Tommy John surgery, Bundy pitched a combined 65.1 innings over the next two seasons. He made the Orioles out of spring training as a reliever and has been solid, pitching mostly in low-leverage situations. They seem to be content with using Bundy as a middle reliever, as he is yet to make a major league start. Maybe his arm couldn’t handle the workload and the Orioles realize that so they are keeping him in relief. I would love to see what he can do as a starter in the second half. If that is not going to happen, how about some more late-inning spots? Bundy is not worth picking up at the moment, but his pedigree makes him one to keep on your watch list. For those in long-term leagues, now is the time to try and grab him.
- Jedd Gyorko (2B/SS, Cardinals) – Gyorko is currently a bench player that sees a few starts per week and the occasional pinch hitting assignment. It is a far cry from the Gyorko of 2013, when he was lighting the Fantasy Baseball world on fire with 23 HRs on the lowly Padres. Unfortunately, he never improved on that debut performance and was eventually shipped out to St. Louis this offseason. A spring training injury to Jhonny Peralta led to the potential of more at-bats for Gyorko at shortstop, possibly even as a regular. He started 14 games in April, hitting four HRs with eight RBIs, but his playing time has dipped in each successive month. Now 27 years old, it may be time to let the dream of Gyorko being a stud Fantasy 2B go. But I can’t, not until I see one more season of regular playing time. With Peralta back in action, it would now take multiple injuries before Gyorko gets more than a random start. Despite his potential to be a cheap source of middle infield power, he can be dropped in all but NL-Only and keeper formats.